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Shave a bar of chocolate for an easy and elegant decoration

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

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Sometimes the simplest decorations make the most beautiful desserts. The naked cake really leans towards a minimal attempt at frosting, and you can get away with sticking decorative chocolate bars onto your dessert. Here’s another decor to add to your minimalist repertoire. It’s stylish, extremely versatile, and requires nothing more than a vegetable peeler. Shave a bar of chocolate to make curls and chocolate chips.

Using this method for decoration is as easy as powdered sugar, but with a lot more flavor and a little more drama. Plus, you can always hit it with a sugar coating afterwards. The chips are smaller than the curls, but they are both made the same way. Decide what kind of shape you want first. If you’re making small desserts, such as individual cupcakes or mousses, chips might be a better choice. If you are decorating a spoon cake, a more pronounced curl is needed. The size of the curl depends on the temperature of the chocolate.

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Grab any regular chocolate bar (dark, milk, or white) and a sharp vegetable peeler. (Chocolate bars with nuts, fruit, or other inclusions will disrupt the shape.) Run the peeling blade along the edge of the chocolate bar and angle it against the back of the bar for a wider shape. Always shave directly over dessert or on a cold plate so the chocolate chunks don’t melt.

Bottom right: cold chocolate, bottom left: stovetop, top: microwave

Bottom right: cold chocolate, bottom left: stovetop, top: microwave

Chocolate has a good amount of cocoa butter, a saturated fat. That fat becomes brittle in cold temperatures and flexible in warm temperatures. For small chips, use a cold or room temperature chocolate bar up to 70°F. The pieces will be thinner and break more often due to the cooled fats. For medium shaves or small, tight curls, briefly heat the shaved edge of the wand with a mild external heat source. I’ll turn on a stove burner and swirl the chocolate over the pan, or if my oven is on, I’ll open the door and keep the chocolate warm for a few seconds. It only takes a moment; you don’t want the chocolate to start melting. For thick, bold curls, microwave the chocolate for about 10 seconds for thick bars and five if you’re working with thin bars. The microwave will heat the chocolate gently but from the inside out, which means you can shave deeper into the chocolate and achieve a thicker curl without breaking it.

These thin little ribbons and wisps melt easily, so make sure the dessert you’re decorating is completely cool, even cold, before decorating. You can also make a bowl of chocolate curls ahead of time and store them in the fridge until you need them. Sprinkle as a decoration on cakes, puddings, custards or ice cream with a cold spoon or (quickly) with your fingertips.

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